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EPISODE 23

How Thrive Market is Building an Online Grocery Shopping Experience that is Here to Stay

With Nick Green, the co-founder and CEO of Thrive Market

The shift toward online grocery shopping has been happening for years, but the events of 2020 have accelerated the process beyond what anyone could have predicted. But will it continue in the post-COVID-19 world? Nick Green, believes so. Nick is the co-founder and CEO of Thrive Market, an online health food market that has been at the forefront of the online grocery trend from the beginning. Since Thrive first launched in 2015, the company has steadily grown to more than 900,000 members and hundreds of millions in sales, and they did it in an untraditional way. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Nick explains how receiving “nos” from more than 50 VCs nearly crushed the company before they found a unique new investment strategy. Plus he explains why Costco has been one of the most influential companies to learn from in terms of structuring the membership experience and how to hack the supply chain so that you can provide a truly curated and personalized experience for your customers. He also divulges what the No. 1 metric you need to look at is if you hope to build success for both your own private label as well as all the partner brands you work with

Key Takeaways:

  • Learnings from Costco: Not only does Costco have a membership model that can be replicated, as Thrive has done, they also were instrumental in leveling up the private label model and building trust with customers. Thrive has leaned into the private label model, but has taken it even further by working with the other brands in the marketplace to ensure there are no “us-vs.-them” situations. By building trust in their private brand and with their partners, both have been able to prosper.
  • Hacking the Supply Chain: The biggest barriers to achieving the mission of making healthy food affordable and accessible was pricing and availability. To solve that, it all came down to streamlining the supply chain and leaning into the membership model.
  • Incrementality is the No. 1 Metric: Anyone can judge whether or not a promotion led to a jump in sales, but the incrementality of that jump is the most important metric to look at. Knowing who clicked on what exact promo, who then went on to purchase form that click or where they dropped off, is important information that brands need but can’t get in most places, particularly brick and mortar shops.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“[Thrive Market] started with the end mission in mind — how do we solve this problem of making healthy living easy and affordable for everybody? We knew that was the mission and initially we saw the primary barrier, which I think I would still say is a primary barrier to buying organic and natural products, basically being price.”

“It is crazy that highly processed food — which is a combination of more ingredients, more complexity in the supply chain et cetera — costs less. And it’s easier to get than simple, organic products that should be, in theory, easier to create. It all comes down to scale and it all comes down to what those supply chains look like. So, what we did was first say, how can we cut out as many steps in the supply chain as possible?” 

“When people find out that they can get healthy organic food at, or below, the price of conventional equivalents, that they have a platform that is purpose-built for making that process easy, they want to share it.”

“We’ve now started to really blur the line between being a retailer, but also being a brand because a third of our sales are coming off of the 10% of our catalog that is our own brand. And that’s because our members have invested in membership. They trust the Thrive Market platform. We do act right and pursue our values and raise quality standards, so that trust continues to build.”

“We’re working with our brands. Instead of it being an us versus them, where our private label is undermining the brands, we actually see the brand sales in many cases go up when we launch our Thrive Market branded product. In many cases, it allows us to curate the catalog further.” 

“Our approach is to be totally transparent with the brands on all of their data and then find ways to anonymize data, to give them insights more broadly on what’s happening across the platform. I think one challenge that a lot of Ecommerce platforms have, but especially a marketplace like ours, is you can end up drowning in data. And so, it’s about how do you not just provide those data to the brands, but couple it with insights and make it distilled and digestible.”

“Part of the reason that brands work with us is… they know that we have almost a million members who are all really passionate about the lifestyle. But I think part of it is that we can do things on our platform that you just can’t do in a brick and mortar environment. Some of that comes down to storytelling and just the way we position and present the brand, but a lot of it comes down to being able to read them data and insights, and we provide real transparency and visibility where they feel like they can control their destiny.”

“[Incrementality is] the number one metric. The way that we’re able to do it is by having good attribution. When we send out an email, we can see every person who clicked on that email. We can know whether that click then drove to the purchase. And we can say that definitively. Not just that this person purchased after the promo was sent, that this person purchased after clicking on that exact promo.”

“If you drop people right into an open marketplace it can be overwhelming… giving a more guided experience where we get some data and do something that would be physically impossible in a grocery store — you couldn’t go in a grocery store and have the whole thing suddenly reorganize you to put your stuff at the front — that’s effectively what we’re able to do.”

“From an Ecommerce as best practice standpoint, we’ve historically found that a more open [experience] is good if people have high intent and they know exactly what they’re purchasing. More open is detrimental to conversion in a world where people can be easily overwhelmed or there’s real complexity, or they’re new to the experience, or they need to get some education. So we have really biased towards a funnel that is more educational and guided in nature.”

“We think a lot about what is the funnel that’s going to not just drive that initial conversion to membership, but is going to create numbers who are going to be long-term engaged because that’s what we’re building and we want to have a business for the long-term.”

“One of the big things we talk a lot about internally is always having our human hat on. If you’re testing and iterating, it’s very easy to look at the numbers, but not be thinking about the path that human beings are going through the experience. And we find that the greatest antidote to doing something that will be short term conversion-driving, but long-term detrimental to the business is to put ourselves in the seat of the member and say, ‘Is this actually a good experience? Will this feel good? Will I feel good, if I was going through this experience?’ Because it is easy to test your way into something that will somehow squeeze more conversion out of the funnel, but you’re squeezing out the wrong people and you’re squeezing in, maybe the wrong people too, and you’re leaving a bad taste in new users mouth that affects their long-term interaction with the brand.”

“The first thing that’s really important to understand about what’s happening with COVID, and I would say specifically as it relates to online grocery, is that COVID has not created a departure from the trend. It’s really just accelerated a trend that was already happening. If you look at the actual compounding growth rates of shifting to online grocery, it’s insane. It’s double-digit growth every single year. But it’s early on in that growth period compounding. What has basically happened with COVID is you’ve packed five years into four or five months, and you’ve gone from 10% of people purchasing groceries online to 40% of people doing some of their grocery shopping online and many doing all of it. So, I think the billion-dollar question as it were is, how much of that will remain and how much will go back?” 

 Mentions:

Bio:

“Nick is the co-founder and co-CEO of Thrive Market, an online wholesale buying club on a mission to make healthy living easy and affordable for every American family. Thrive Market currently offers the 4,000 most popular natural and organic products in the world at 25-50% off retail, shipped anywhere in the U.S. for free. For every paid member on the site, the company also sponsors a free membership for a low-income family. Prior to co-founding Thrive, Nick was the founder and CEO of Ivy Insiders, an education company that made college test prep more affordable and helped over 20,000 students get into better colleges before being acquired by Revolution Prep in 2010. Nick’s passion is combining technology and business to solve big social problems. When he isn’t pouring his energy into Thrive Market, he enjoys traveling, water skiing, and supporting other social entrepreneurs as an angel investor and advisor”

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Welcome, everyone, to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder of mission.org. On the show today, we have the co-founder and CEO of Thrive Market, Nick Green. Nick, welcome to the show.

Nick:

Thanks for having me.

Stephanie:

I’m so excited to have you on here, because I’ve been a member of Thrive Market for a long time, but I didn’t always understand how it operated. So yeah, I’m excited to dive into Thrive Market and your background a bit. And yeah, would love to hear what brought you to starting Thrive Market.

Nick:

Well, first I’m excited to be talking to you today as a Thrive Market member and customer, and as someone who I think exemplifies our typical members with a growing family and entrepreneur, and with a lot going on and wanting to be healthy for you and your family. So, that is our mission, it’s to help people get healthy, stay healthy and to make that lifestyle accessible to anybody. And it’s been a crazy ride over the last five years and we’re really just getting started.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. I love it. For anyone who hasn’t checked it out, I highly recommend, especially for the niche things where you’re like, “I really, I’m looking for this kind of essential oil.” And it’s also good prices too. So, what did you do before Thrive Market? How did you come about founding that and getting into the world of Ecommerce and developing a marketplace of all things? Probably, one of the hardest things to start.

Nick:

Yeah. So, I’m a serial entrepreneur, and actually a serial social entrepreneur. So, Thrive is a mission based business as I alluded to before. And really both the companies that I’ve started, the first one was an education company, and then Thrive obviously focused on healthy living, really came from my experiences growing up in the Midwest. I grew up in Minnesota. I had a mom who was laser focused on two things, which was education for her kids and health for her family.

Stephanie:

That’s a good mom.

Nick:

And I mean, the basics, right? The foundational pillars. And I saw how hard she worked for both, right? Figuring out the right public school. We actually open and enrolled to go to a Spanish immersion school, when I was in elementary school. So, really making deliberate decisions there, when we wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to a private school.

Nick:

And then around health, in a place at a time when there weren’t a ton of options to find organic food, certainly to find organic, healthy food at an affordable price, my mom did all of that legwork, all of that research. And mind you, this is back in the nineties, pre-internet.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s hard.

Nick:

Pre widespread internet. It was tough. She was reading books and doing her own research. So, I didn’t think about it, this at the time when I started my first company, Ivy Insiders. But it was really her focus and education that caused me to see the opportunity to basically help other kids like me who had gone to public school, weren’t from the East or West coast. And didn’t necessarily see the college admission process back when they were in ninth and 10th grade. And I saw the SAT for the first time when I took it, and got to Harvard as an undergrad. And found out there were lots of my peers who had basically been prepping for not only the SAT, but college admissions in general, since they were early in high school.

Nick:

So, in my first business was actually, is called Ivy Insiders, and we were hiring Ivy League undergrads to go back to their home towns all over the country to help other kids get ready for college, get inspired around college, and then help with those all important standardized tests. And so, that business grew very fast. It was a summer business where we’d send these undergrads home during the summer. And we had, ultimately about 900 of them, so 900 branches around the country. And then that would seed an online business during the school year where these folks would continue to tutor and work with their students. So, I started that as an undergrad. I was 18 years old. Ran it for seven years, so three years after school. I think I described it, I basically didn’t leave a seven block radius of Harvard Square for seven years.

Stephanie:

Gosh. I know logistics behind that, sounds insane.

Nick:

It was insane. But it was my first foray into mission-driven entrepreneurship, where I related personally to that problem so acutely, and the impact that we were able to have on students, to just give them, to motivate them, to inspire them. And then of course, to give them tools and strategies to get over the hump. If you’re, again, a kid who grew up on the East or West coast in a major metro area, going to a good private school with parents, who had all gone to college to, you probably, this stuff it’s taken for granted.

Nick:

But I think for a lot of people all over the country, understanding how the game works for college admissions is a total mystery. And so, that business was really fun. It was really powerful and inspiring for me to realize how personally meaningful it was. It set pretty early for me the template of entrepreneurship, not just as a way to build a business or make money or something like that, but also to do something I cared about.

Nick:

And then, the only thing more fundamental than education really is health. And like I said, that went back for me to my childhood as well. So, I sold Ivy Insiders in 2011, came out to LA to work on an earn-out. I spent a year and a half doing that and had a great experience as the acquiring company revolution prep. I got to see an education business that was at greater scale, but also very entrepreneurial and also interestingly mission-driven themselves. So, that was really cool.

Nick:

And then, I was actually the startup accelerator as an entrepreneur resident on the investment committee doing a bunch of angel investing myself, and thinking through what my next thing was going to be, when I met my co founder. And he, Gunnar, actually pitched me initially on investing in a concept he was calling Shop Drive, which was going to be Groupon for healthy food. And the business model was very different than where we ultimately landed, but the vision and the mission was exactly the same.

Nick:

And he actually grew up, couldn’t have been more different than my upbringing, but he grew up on a communal farm, basically a hippie commune in Ohio, California. But also with a mom who really was focused on healthy living, and actually a community that was very focused on healthy living. So, they were doing group buying of organic wholesale groceries back in the seventies, the eighties, the early nineties. And he always had this idea, and he was a serial entrepreneur too, but he’d always had this idea in the back of his head, “How can we bring the commune to the masses?” And so, he pitched me on this idea to do groupon buying for organic food. By the end of the meeting, I was pitching him on doing something together. And the rest is history. That mission, which I remember crystal clear him saying, “We’re going to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone,” in that meeting. That is still, that is the line that’s in our office. It’s what we talk to every new hire about. And it’s the mission that inspires us as the business.

Stephanie:

That’s amazing. I also think, I just want to hear his story of growing up, like he did on a commune.

Nick:

He’s got a way more interesting story than I do. I grew up in middle American suburbia. He was doing… Just totally, totally different experience. And really, really cool to see the way that they were able to solve problems like health, food access in a creative and communal way. And it’s been the template for so much of what we’ve done at Thrive, not just in terms of the business model and the mission, but the way we’ve thought about community, and the way we’ve thought about our membership is more than just utility. A lot of the values and the ethos actually comes straight from that upbringing that he had.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s really cool. So, how did you start Thrive? You guys landed on the business idea? What were the first steps with, even thinking through like, “Okay, how are we going to buy things in bulk or get partners,” or what were the early days like?

Nick:

Yeah. So, I mean, like I said, it started with the end in mind and how do we solve this problem of making healthy living easy and affordable for everybody? So, we knew that was the mission. Initially, we saw the primary barrier, which I think I would still say is a primary barrier to buying organic and natural products, basically being price. Typical markup is 25% to 50%. And for 95% of American families that just literally prices them out of the market. So, Whole Foods was our touchstone in terms of what they had done with quality and with trust, and with sustainability and sourcing. But yet, half of Americans don’t live within driving distance of a whole foods. And as I said, 95% can’t afford the price premiums. So, we really wanted to solve both the geography question, which inherently we did, because we were going to be online, shipping anywhere in the country, but more importantly, we wanted to solve that price problem.

Nick:

So, the early days of the business were really around how can we figure out some way to get organic products to people at, or below the price of conventional equivalents. And intuitively when you think about, it is crazy that highly processed food, that is a combination of more ingredients, more complexity in the supply chain et cetera, costs less. And it’s easier to get then simple organic products that should be, in theory, easier to create. And it all comes down to scale. And it all comes down to what those supply chains look like.

Nick:

So, what we did basically was first say, how can we cut out as many steps in the supply chain as possible? So, work directly with brands, sometimes work directly with manufacturers or even with producers. And then initially we said, we will take the commune model and pool everyone as a group to get a wholesale account with these brands. And then that’ll enable us to basically, by cutting out the distributor, get to below the price of conventional equivalents.

Nick:

Now, the challenge with that model was nobody wants to wait two or three weeks while your wholesale order comes on every single item of grocery that you buy. So, and we should’ve thought about that immediately. It took us a few iterations of actually doing these group buying events to see that it wasn’t really a longterm sustainable way for people to buy their groceries. So, we were basically back at the drawing board a few months into the business and looking at other models and looking at Costco.

Nick:

And Costco is the wholesale buying club. They also cut out steps in their supply chain, go direct as much as possible. But then the key thing is they make their money from membership, which allows them to also pass along really significant savings to members on the product sales. So, that’s where we landed. We were fortunate that both of us had started and sold businesses before. So, we were able to sell fund the business during that initial iteration process.

Nick:

The interesting thing is we landed on that business model, knew it could work. We of course, had utter conviction in our thesis around people in middle America, middle-class people, working class people wanting to get healthy. And we were like, “Okay, we’re off to the races.” And then, we actually ended up having a hell of a time raising funds when we actually went out to pitch VCs.

Nick:

And so, we in our pitch just fell flat, and we were actually rejected by over 150 different VCs.

Stephanie:

Oh, my gosh.

Nick:

We continued to sell from the business. And I’ll tell you, there were points in that period where, Gunnar and I were like, “We can do this for a while, but we don’t have millions of dollars to pour into this business.” And there was existential risk. So, that was a pretty dark, dark time, especially given that we still had total conviction in what the business could be.

Nick:

We ended up stumbling our way into a fundraising strategy by partnering with the influencers who we’re already going to work with to promote the business. And we actually brought them on as investors. And in $25 to $50,000 chunks, we brought in this coalition of the willing, people that were thought leaders in health and wellness, who understood the mission, who saw the opportunity and bet on us. In many cases who had never made an investment in a private company before, bet on us pre-launch. And we raised about $8.5 million that way and got off to the races.

Stephanie:

I was very interested when I saw some of your celebrity investors. And you can tell me if any of these names are wrong. I saw Demi Moore, John legend, Tony Robbins. How did you get in front of these people to make them even consider investing?

Nick:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I wish I could say, I just pulled them up on speed dial.

Stephanie:

DM action.

Nick:

Or take some credit for some master strategy. Honestly, it was a snowball effect. And we started out with influencers who were people, most people haven’t ever heard of, but have major audiences online, and major credibility and authenticity because of their thought leadership. And so, these were on channels like Instagram and YouTube, bloggers who were connected to other influencers, who were in turn connected to other influencers. And it spiraled up and out until all of a sudden we were actually talking to celebrities. So, it was really amazing, again, to see the power of the mission, where once we got in front of people that understood what we were trying to do, who cared about it as more than just an investment that was going to drive financial return, and who were committed to the mission themselves. It was like just a night and day difference, right? There wasn’t like the skepticism we saw with the VCs, instead it was, “How can I get involved? How can I help? Who else can I tell about this?”

Stephanie:

All of them.

Nick:

And it foreshadowed too what we ended up finding with our members, right? Where when people find out that they can get healthy organic food at, or below the price of conventional equivalents, that they have a platform that is purpose built for making that process easy, they want to share it. And that’s been a huge, I guess, has been the part of our success on the membership side. And it was, essentially, our accidental fundraising strategy.

Stephanie:

I love that. So, earlier you were mentioning Costco and it reminded me, I was just reading a really good newsletter thread about Costco and how they convince brands to essentially cannibalize themselves. So, for instance, if they are selling Starbucks, they will also sell coffee right next to Starbucks, and it’ll actually be Starbucks, maybe making it. And when they partner with these brands like that, to create their own Kirkland signature line, it’s oftentimes the same company, like a Starbucks or something who’s making that product. And then, Costco will also ask them to make the product 1% better.

Stephanie:

Is there anything that, like you said earlier, you were looking at Costco when it came to building up the strategy, at least on the membership side, is there anything else around their business model like that, where you are watching what they do and learning from them and then maybe, going to your brands and saying, “Okay, make a Thrive Market version as well. You can still sell your name brand on here, but also make one for us too.”

Nick:

Yeah. I mean, that’s a really, really good question. And honestly, I could spend the rest of this conversation just talking about Costco.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I’ll put the link up of this thread. It was really good and also very interesting like, “Oh, I should choose Kirkland brand more often because it’s the same exact product and everything. And oftentimes a little bit better.”

Nick:

Yeah. I mean, any entrepreneur who is interested in retail, Ecommerce, membership models, customer centric business models, employee centric business models, values, they are the touchstone. Costco truly is an incredible, incredible business with a very powerful business model, the core of which is membership. But there’s so many other dimensions to it. And so we, again, stumbled into understanding and studying Costco because of membership, but we’ve actually used them as a touchstone in a bunch of different ways. And the private label program is definitely one of them. And we call it private label turned on its head, because when people typically think of private label, they think of the compare to product that’s going to be from a slightly crappier manufacturer with worst packaging, a little bit lower quality, but a slightly lower price tag. And Costco really changed that. I think the other retailer that’s really changed that is Trader Joe’s.

Nick:

So, we look at both of them as those examples of real innovators on private label, where their brand is actually trusted as much, if not more than the third party brands that are in the site or that are in the store. And to your point, they oftentimes actually work with their third party brands as the partners to develop these products to uplevel quality, to do customized case packs and sizing and packaging for their stores. And they get a bunch of efficiencies for the business that way. And then they’re also able to really be responsive to the specific needs that they’re, in the case of Costco, that their membership base has or in Trader Joe’s, their shoppers.

Nick:

And so, yes, that’s exactly the model that we take on our Thrive Market brand. That has been the fastest growing portion of our catalog. It’s the best reviewed set of products on the site. It’s the highest reordered set of products on the site. And we’ve now started to really blur the line between being even a retailer, we’re a retailer still obviously, but also being a brand because a third of our sales are coming off of, basically the 10% of our catalog, that is our own brand. And that’s because our members have invested in membership. They trust the Thrive Market platform. We do just act right and pursue our values and raise quality standards, so that trust continues to build.

Nick:

And then to your point earlier, we work with the third party brands in many cases or whatever co-packer, co-manufacturer we’re working with, to be really, really responsive to what our members need in this product and how do we go above and beyond what their expectations would ever be. And because we’re a retailer, we have so much more data than a typical brand would have in terms of number of feedback, in terms of purchase patterns, in terms of what products are selling in that category? What are the gaps in that category? What are the dietary trends? And so, we basically are batting a thousand on our private label products.

Nick:

And then, I think you’re alluding to this too, because we’re working with our brands, instead of it being an us versus them, where our private labels undermining the brands, we actually see the brand sales in many cases go up when we launch our Thrive Market branded product. And in many cases, it also allows us to curate the catalog further. So, we’ll cut out some of the products that maybe weren’t doing as well. And for those that are remaining, even if we’re not using them as a co-manufacturers, they’ll actually see their sales go up. So that’s, it’s been a core part of our strategy.

Nick:

The other part that we really followed Costco’s lead on, which I just mentioned, is curation. You think about the Amazon model of the everything store. They’re trying to always expand the skews to have as much choice as possible. If you go on Amazon and you search for almond butter, you’ll literally find 40,000 results. How are you going to go through them?

Stephanie:

Yeah. Spend two hours going through reviews like, “Which one is the best almond?”

Nick:

Exactly. Trying to figure out what’s right. And so, we’ve taken the opposite approach, which is exactly the same as Costco, right? Where they say, “We’re going to have 5,000 products and it’s going to make our backend operations really efficient. It’s going to allow us to really focus on our purchasing power with a select number of high quality brands or vendors. And it’s going to allow us to build trust with our members that they don’t have to sort out which of these 40,000 options is best, rather we’ve done the work for you.”

Nick:

And I think in healthy living that is especially important because the trends are changing so fast, people are intimidated. Oftentimes they don’t know where to start. And to be able to come on to Thrive, after you just found out that you have a gluten sensitivity, or you have a child with a nut allergy, and click one filter and the entire catalog personalizes to you. The number of the feedback that we get from members is like, “This is, it’s a dream, you’re saving me hours and hours of time that I would have spent reading labels and doing my own research and having to do all this hard work that you guys had done for me.”

Stephanie:

Yeah. I love that. I was just thinking two days ago, I probably spent an hour going through blog posts, because I have twins and the feeding schedule is getting a little bit crazy. So, I’m like, “Oh, maybe I should supplement a little bit of formula.” And I went through probably 10 blogs trying to figure out a healthy formula for them. And it seems like there actually are none in the US, and all the good ones are in Europe and Switzerland and yeah, overseas. How do you think about finding some of those brands? Because it does often it seems like the US does not have as high of standards when it comes to FDA approvals and what’s actually good. And I appreciate that you guys can step in and say, “Here’s what’s good. Here’s what’s not.” But how do you find those products on your own?

Nick:

We’ve really taken it upon ourselves to first say, what are the right standards to have? So, for example, on GMO, we’ve simply taken the stance that we will not bring on any food products that have genetically modified ingredients. And it’s not because we have some inherent opposition to genetic modification, that’s a whole different debate, but it’s the fact that 95% of GMO, genetic modification in the US is to basically make crops resistant to glyphosate, which is a carcinogenic chemical. So, we start by saying, “All right, let’s put a line in the sand on our quality standards, things that are non negotiable, like non-GMO. Then we do the same kind of research that you’re doing. But we have teams of experts who are dedicated to it. We’re looking at each category and saying, “All right, what are the specific standards that we have to look to in this category for baby formula? What are the things that matter? What are the ingredients that it shouldn’t have? What are the things that it should have? What are the best practices from a sourcing and supply chain?”

Stephanie:

I can be your expert now.

Nick:

Seriously, and you’ve spent the time, you’re probably more of an expert than 99.9% of the population. And our goal is for that other 99.9%, “All right. Let’s have the options on there that are really good, if people don’t have the bandwidth or the experience or background to do the research themselves.” So, it’s been really, really interesting to see that trust where people can outsource the research to us. And the standards really do end up being different in each vertical or each category or subcategory, or a product type. Some of them are really, really hard like baby formula, because you’re balancing, how can we make it affordable? How can you get, find something that’s going to be shelf stable? How can you find something that’s going to be scalable? So, have a supply chain that can actually scale. And then, of course I still hit the quality standards.

Nick:

But we’ve been pretty successful at it so far in a lot of different categories. And then we also allow people to, within each of those categories, as I said, we have 150 different metadata categories that we tag every product on. They can actually search by the things that matter most to them. So, if they have a specific allergy or they’re specifically focused on fair trade, or they’re specifically want to support women owned businesses or whatever it might be, you literally click a filter and then, basically empowers the user or the member to shop by their values.

Stephanie:

Got it. That’s great. I think the idea of curation is only going to get more important as more products come online, more D to C companies are launching, you need that trusted source to be able to say, “We’ve already looked into it for you, and you don’t need to spend five hours on a blog looking into that.” So, that’s amazing.

Stephanie:

Earlier you mentioned you have a lot of data, of course, that you’re collecting all the time. Do you ever share that data with your brands? And if so, how do you go about that to keep the privacy aspect, but then also give your brands something to work with to maybe improve their own products where you’re like, “Every time you sell this one kind of espresso bean, you always get a three-star review, versus this other one, you get a five star.” Maybe you should look into that.

Nick:

Yeah. That’s a really, really great question. And it’s one that we’re super, super focused on. I mean, we basically, our approach is be totally transparent with the brands on all of their data and then find ways to anonymize data, to give them insights more broadly on what’s happening across the platform. I think one challenge that a lot of Ecommerce platforms have, but especially a marketplace like ours, is you can end up drowning in data. And so, it’s how do you not just provide those data to the brands, but couple it with insights and make it distilled and digestible.

Nick:

So, one of the areas that we really focus is marketing and the kind of marketing dollars that brands put into promoting their products on site. If you think about that in a brick and mortar environment, it’s a black box. You don’t know whether that promo actually worked. You can do different lift tests and sometimes there’s going to be some feedback provided, but it’s much more art than science. And I think, that capacity makes it really hard to lean into the spend. We have a lot of brands that over allocate marketing dollars towards Thrive because they can see exactly what that impact is. And we have the ability to track that digitally. And then we share it with pretty, a high degree of specificity and controlling for incrementality what’s actually happening, so that they can know their ROI, down to the dollar. And that kind of visibility is really powerful.

Nick:

Now, what you were asking about in terms of insights on what products are working, we’re doing that all the time. And that’s our category managers because they don’t have 60,000 non-perishable skews, having an order of magnitude fewer skews, an order of magnitude fewer brands that we have to serve, means we can spend more attention with them. Which again, means we can not only provide the data, but we can help them interpret that data, analyze that data and then draw real insights from it.

Nick:

And I think that’s part of the reason that the brands work with us. When I look at why we’ve become the go to launch platform for the most innovative new brands, why the leaders in the natural products industry are launching new products on Thrive first and giving us exclusives. Part of it is they align with the mission. They like what we’re doing. And they know that we have almost a million members who are all really passionate about the lifestyle. But I think part of it is that we can do things on our platform that you just can’t do in a brick and mortar environment. And some of that comes down to storytelling and just the way we position and present the brand. But a lot of it, back to your point, it comes down to being able to read them data and insights, and real transparency and visibility where they feel like they can control their destiny.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s great. So, for the marketing campaigns, I didn’t even think about you guys setting up your own marketing channel, what kind of metrics and insights are you giving these brands that they aren’t getting elsewhere? And maybe, what should they be looking to get from other platforms? I mean, I’m sure they can’t go on demand like, “I want to see this metric because Thrive Market gives it to us.” But what are you showing that they normally can’t get elsewhere, that’s giving them that peace of mind and transparency?

Nick:

Yeah. I mean, the biggest thing is incrementality, right? At any given time, there’s going to be so many different factors that can affect what’s happening with the sales of a brand or a product. And those factors can be things like seasonality. They can be things like growth in our membership base. They can be things like COVID-19. And so, when you have all these different layers of volatility and a brand’s sales on site, it’s hard to know whether that promotion that you did actually had an impact. And this is the same issue that they have if they are selling in Whole Foods or any other retailer, it’s like, I can run a promo. I can look at the lift pre-imposed promo in the overall brand sales. But there’s all these other factors that happen. How do I actually adjust for those?

Nick:

And so, incrementality, as when we think about acquisition marketing for new members, incrementality is everything, right? And when these brands are spending incremental dollars, they want to think about incrementality too. So, that’s the number one metric. And the way that we’re able to do it is by having good attribution. So, when we send out an email, we can see every person that clicked on that email. We can know whether that click then drove to the purchase. And we can say definitively, right? Not just that this person purchased after the promo was sent, that this person purchased after clicking on that exact promo. So, that’s one example. And then what we’re able to do is then tease out and actually tell them, this is your return on ad spend in a way that is actually credible, versus attributing everything that happened during that period to the promo.

Stephanie:

Got it. And how do you control for more like environmental factors or larger things, like you mentioned COVID, how would you control for that when it comes to showing incrementality?

Nick:

I mean, part of it is you can, if you’re looking at the overall sales lift, you can adjust, you can look at sales lift above and beyond what was happening in the category. And that’s one easy way to do it. But more than that for us, we actually look at the power of an actual, the email that drove the promotion or click throughs on the banner or the ads themselves. If a person walks into a grocery store and sees an end cap, you don’t have any way to know whether they actually saw that in end cap and influenced their purchase. If someone comes and clicks on the banner on our site or clicks through on an email that we sent on a promotion, we have that tracked, they’ve got a pixel and we will know and be able to attribute that.

Nick:

And look, you can say maybe that still is an incremental, they would’ve purchased anyway, but it gets you a lot closer to true incrementality. So, that allows you to not have to focus on just adjusting out all those other factors, which the truth is, we can’t know for certain, right? We have an idea of what kind of lift we’ve seen from COVID-19. But even to think about that one, there’s so many other factors at play.

Nick:

There’s all the things we’re doing internally to drive the business up. There’s seasonal fluctuations that happen. So, we have to, some of it ends up being a judgment call, but the more we can provide the specific data and the… It’s almost like a worst case analysis. We know these people that actually clicked are incremental, and if the ROI come back out on that basis alone, then everything else is gravy. And it just, it gives them a level of certainty to lean into the spend. And it gives us the power to really speak with conviction, to say, “Hey, these promotions really work for you.” And we don’t have to feel like we’re just selling them on something. We can feel like, “Hey, we’re partnering with you to drive massive value for your business in a way that no other retail platform really can.”

Stephanie:

Got it. Yeah. Very cool. So, when it comes to building out your website, I’m sure you guys have had a ton of iterations over the past couple of years. What have you seen works when, I mean, because you’re a membership site, when you’re scrolling through, you can still see things which is nice. So, it’s not like a complete, behind the curtain is the only way that you can see what will be actually have. But then after maybe right now, at least you click on it and then it’ll say, “Okay, maybe you should think about a membership.” And how did you think about building your website to get people to sign up for a membership, but also giving them enough products and things to see behind the scenes so they know it’s actually worth it?

Nick:

Yeah, that’s a really good question. And it’s a balancing act. And to your point, it’s been super iterative. We’ve tested all different variations of that initial first user onboarding experience. And we’ve done everything from an open site to a hard red wall to where we’re at right now. We actually have an onboarding, we call it guided shopping quiz. So, you don’t actually, most people that hit into site are not actually landing into the full unbridled Ecommerce experience, where they can browse through all the skews. Instead, they come into an experience where they get a landing page that shares the value proposition and features of Thrive. They then click through and actually go through a quiz that takes five minutes to do, that gives us the information to give them a curated, personalized set of recommendations to start.

Nick:

And I think the general thing that we found is, if you drop people right into an open marketplace it can be overwhelming, especially because Thrive is a different kind of shopping experience. And for many of the folks coming in they’re new on this health journey. They may have just decided they want to pursue a keto diet, but they’ve never been on this site that allows them to search by, to filter by keto, or they don’t know which categories of snacks are more likely to have keto products in them. So, giving a more guided experience where we get some data, again, do something that would be physically impossible in a grocery store. Well, you couldn’t go in a grocery store and have the whole thing suddenly reorganize to put your stuff at the front.

Stephanie:

All vegan.

Nick:

Exactly. But that’s effectively what we’re able to do. And it’s a five minute quiz, drives into a full data science model and uses millions of data points on purchase behavior in the past from people that had similar answers on the quiz to give, basically help you build your box yourself. So, from an Ecommerce as best practice standpoint, we’ve historically found that more open is good if people have high intent and they know exactly what they’re purchasing. More open is detrimental to conversion in a world where people can be easily overwhelmed or there’s real complexity, or they’re new to the experience, or they need to get some education. So, we have really biased towards a funnel that is more educational and guided in nature.

Nick:

The cool thing about the quiz that not only actually gives us data, but it also in the questions that we ask and the things that we share in the categories that we move through, it shares with the would be member more about what Thrive does. And so, they get educated in the process too.

Nick:

So, and actually, if this really answered your question, but I’d say our funnel has tended towards being more closed and more guided, but always in a way that is giving value to the member in exchange for value that they return. So, one of the things we don’t want to do is be that place that like says, “We’re a walled garden and we’re not going to tell you anything about what we are and just sign up and trust us.” Because you will get some people that will do that, especially if you give them a strong incentive, but those won’t end up being high quality members.

Nick:

So, we also think a lot about, what’s the funnel that’s going to not just drive that initial conversion to membership, but is going to create numbers who are going to be longterm engaged because that’s what we’re building and we want to have a business for the longterm. We’re not just looking at clipping one year of membership fees.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s so important. So, how did you think about building the quiz? Because I’m thinking, I could see quite a few people, I mean, I think you mentioned it was maybe around five minutes, I could see quite a few people maybe with lower intent dropping off. How did you think about building it in a way that would encourage people to finish it and what kind of conversions do you see when it comes to, or completions do you see around that quiz?

Nick:

Yeah. I mean the first thing I’ll say there is your intuition is exactly what mine, and I think most people’s would be on that kind of quiz where it’s like, you just don’t believe that people would actually go through the whole thing, especially as it gets longer. I remember I read a case study at one point on, I think it was match.com or one of these dating sites that has an onboarding survey or questionnaire that takes, it’s like 80 questions or something, right? To find your perfect soulmate.

Stephanie:

Gosh. I’d give up. I’m single forever.

Nick:

Yeah. But and you would think that that’s the way it is, but actually like 97% of people finish it. And I think part of it is people have to have an incentive, if there has to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow kind of thing. And so, obviously someone who’s looking for the love of their life has a very strong incentive. Someone that comes to Thrive sees a lot of things they like on the landing page, really wants to get healthy, has a real incentive to finish it. We see about 85% completion once someone starts the quiz. And it’s 18 questions. So, it’s not a super short quiz. It goes by pretty quickly, but it’s a lot of clicking, some real thinking, a little bit of cognitive load.

Nick:

And to be honest, we were totally surprised. We thought the drop off would be significantly higher. And what we found is it actually, to my point earlier, it builds more trust and credibility. There’s a little bit of a sunk cost phenomenon where people are, they’ve invested now in getting through. And so, then they are really determined to actually get some value, see their results, like et cetera.

Nick:

But there’s also this factor of they’re getting educated about the platform as they move through the questions that we ask implicitly, tell them something about Thrive, what we’re asking. Like, what are the causes that you care about? What are the values you want to live? What are the diets that you want to search by? As they go through those answers, they can see, “Wow. Thrive allows me to shop by diet. Wow. Thrive empowers me to shop my values. Wow. Thrive has beauty products too.” So, we find it to be killing a lot of… Wrong analogy, but it kills a lot of birds with a single stone.

Nick:

And we found that our intuition on many dimensions of the quiz was totally wrong. So, it really has been just an iterative process of trying different things, prompting the membership at different points in the quiz, prompting the registration at different points in the quiz. And just like standard growth hacking 101 to iterate our way to something that converts.

Nick:

But then always, like for us, one of the big things we talk a lot about internally is always having our human hat on. So, if you’re testing and iterating, it’s very easy to look at the numbers, but not be thinking about the path that human beings are going through the experience. And we find that the greatest antidote to doing something that will be short term conversion driving, but longterm detrimental to the business is to put ourselves in the seat of the member and say, “Okay, is this actually a good experience? Will this feel good? Will I feel good, if I was going through this experience?” Because it is easy to test your way into something that will somehow squeeze more conversion out of the funnel, but you’re squeezing out the wrong people. You’re squeezing in, maybe the wrong people too, and you’re leaving a bad taste in new users mouth that affects their longterm interaction with the brand.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. I completely agree. So, I think you have a 30 day trial, how did you think about having a free trial period? And then what does that pretension look like and how do you go about improving that number?

Nick:

Yeah. So, it’s interesting that you mentioned the 30 day trial. For the first five years of the business, we did have a 30 day trial.

Stephanie:

That’s what I did.

Nick:

And a hundred people came through the 30 day trial. Over the last nine months, and this coupled with moving towards this quiz, this guided shopping model, we actually ended up testing into removing the trial, having people sign up directly for membership. And we found that once they had gotten to see more of the catalog, see the values of Thrive and go through that quiz there was actually a willingness to sign up directly for membership. So, we now have an option to go through a trial for people that want to, but like 90% plus of our members are actually coming through what we call our direct to member funnel.

Nick:

We still do 30 day risk-free on that. So, you sign up for your membership, but for whatever reason, you don’t use the membership, you don’t like it. You have a bad experience, whatever. Well, people can get their $60 back. But our typical member takes back their membership fee in two purchases in terms of savings. So, it’s about $30 average savings per order. And so, we find really high conversion. And we found that on the trial as well. We would have historically in our legacy funnels, 60% to 75% trial to paid conversion, which is unheard of for trials, which should have been an indication to us, we may not need the trial. And now we see similar actually higher. It looks like 75% of the people that will start the membership, three out of four of them we’ll stick with it and have that great experience. And basically everybody that places an order we’ll stick with it. So, the only people that are dropping out are, they signed up for the membership, they took the risk free. And then for whatever reason, they didn’t actually place an order at all.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s another not to gush all over Costco, but another thing that reminds me of Costco a bit was the guarantee savings. So, I think it’s not the normal Costco membership, but I think the business one that I have says, if you don’t make a certain amount of savings or something, then you’ll get your membership fee back. I can’t remember what exactly it is. I just said, “Oh, that sounds like a good deal or a good deal.” Don’t you guys have something like that as well, where if you don’t make your savings back, we’ll give you the membership fee back or something along those lines?

Nick:

Yeah. So, we have two promises that we make to our members. The first we call it our low price promise, which is that if you find a product that we sell on Thrive, anywhere else at a lower price we will beat it. So, that just gives you that assurance that you don’t have to be price shopping because we’re doing all the price comparisons ourselves and making sure that we’re always lower on every individual product. And if you happen to find one it’s not, well, we’ll go ahead and beat it on that price. So, that’s one.

Nick:

And then the second, which I think, you’re pointing to is our savings guarantee, which just says, if at the end of the year, you haven’t made back your membership fee in savings, if you renew, we will actually give you whatever that gap was in store credit. So, if you only got $20 of savings during the year, that means that we’ll give you, that’s a $40 gap to your $60 membership fee. We’ll actually give you $40 of shopping credit when you renew as a second year member.

Nick:

And we think that guarantee is really important, not because very many people take it, they actually don’t. Because again, you only need two purchases to make back the membership fee. Almost everybody does. But the reason that we do it is for trust and for confidence, to put our money where our mouth is and say, “Hey, we’re not looking to build a business that extracts value from you. We want to build a business that is non zero sum, that delivers value to members. And that the reason that you’re renewing is because you’ve got real value from Thrive Market.” And it’s the reason why we have best-in-class renewal rates and every year, every cohort is renewing at an even higher rate. And I think it has helped drive our conversion too, because people can trust that, “Hey, it’s risk free for the first 30 days. And even if I go through the whole year, if I don’t make that money in my savings, I’ll be able to make up the difference.”

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. There’s so many ways that make it easy to want to stay with you guys.

Stephanie:

So, with everything that’s happening with COVID-19 going on and a lot of changes in the world of Ecommerce, where do you see online grocery going in the future?

Nick:

That is a big question. And obviously, it is the question that we’re thinking about so much right now. I think the first thing that’s really important to understand about what’s happening with COVID, and I would say specifically as it relates to online grocery, is that COVID has not created a departure from the trend. It’s really just accelerated a trend that was already happening. If you look at the actual compounding growth rates of shifting to online grocery, it’s like insane, right? It’s double digit growth every single year. But it’s early on in that growth period compounding. What has basically happened with COVID is you’ve packed five years into four or five months, and you’ve gone from 10% of people purchasing groceries online to 40% of people doing some of their grocery shopping online and many doing all of it.

Nick:

So, I think the billion dollar question as it were is, how much of that will remain and how much will go back? And I think that, if we had had two weeks of lockdowns, I think a lot of people might have done an order online, and then they’re going to go back. But when you have several months, you now have a window, I think for people to bake a new habit. And the reality is that online experience, if it’s good, people will have no reason to go back.

Nick:

One of the challenges is these retailers are dealing with out of stock. So, how do you do substitutes? I think there will be some fallout just because that first experience may not be ideal.

Nick:

But if you look at our categories, we focus on nonperishable products, which are easy to ship. We have a less than one 10th or 1% error rate on the picks that come through. So, you’re always going to get exactly what you want. We now have a huge frozen selection of meat and seafood. We have a wine selection. We now have frozen meals. All these categories that you can get, that aren’t the complicated, like fresh products that might not be ripe or whatever like that. People have a great experience. And when they have a great experience, they feel good about what they’ve done because they’re shipping with carbon neutral shipping and everything comes in one box. So, you’re not piling up a bunch of plastic to throw out like you do with an Amazon order. Then you retain those people.

Nick:

And so, we found with our cohorts during COVID is that they’re actually engaging at a higher level, they’re retaining at a higher level. And we expect them to basically behave at or above what previous cohorts have. And then we’ve also been seeing that our existing members that were using Thrive as one of four or five solutions to buy their other groceries, now they’re using Thrive as one of one or two, which is driving up engagement there. And I think that those patterns given how long the quarantine period has been, or the stay at home period has been, are going to be longstanding.

Nick:

I also think that the shift of grocery online is only one of the trends. Everyone is focused right now on all the things that are moving online, all the things that are moving remote. Work is moving from the office to remote. Grocery shopping and other shopping is moving from a brick and mortar to remote.

Nick:

But I think there’s another trend which is really relevant to us, that’s actually maybe even more profound and that is, what I would describe as basically people becoming more conscious consumers. And I feel like the moment that COVID hit, everybody at some level became a conscious consumer. Everybody is focused on their safety. Everybody is focused on staying healthy. And everyone is thinking about trust and where do their products come from, “And is this product safe? And is this product going to keep me and my family healthy?” And so, that actually is the trend that makes me most excited because that’s people wanting to get empowered about staying healthy, not just doing this purchase online, but buying more from retailers that they really trust, like Thrive Market.

Nick:

And then I think one of the really interesting side trends of this rise of the conscious consumer during COVID, has been people also thinking about not just their own health, but more broadly the health of our country and the health of our planet. And really seeing this incredible moment of people opening up their hearts and wanting to be part of the solution. We always have done donate at checkout, where we let our members donate a portion of their savings if they choose to the shopping budgets, for our gift members. And when COVID-19 started, when the pandemic started, we actually flipped the switch, so that all of that would go to our COVID-19 relief fund, basically providing grocery stipends for families directly affected. And we saw our donated checkouts go up 9X. So, just the generosity of our membership base. I mean, one that it’s inspiring. It actually inspired me to, I decided to donate my entire salary for the remainder of the year to the relief fund.

Nick:

But it’s also just so indicative of the way people, at this moment where I think people are at home, they’re isolated, they in some ways feel helpless. They’re looking at political polarization, all this stuff happening across the country. And they’re saying, “What can I do to not only keep my family safe and healthy, but also help make this situation better, more broadly.” And so, I’m really hopeful that that’s something that will also continue. And that it will be extended beyond just helping those people affected by COVID to bigger topics, more longterm, like climate change and environmental stewardship. So, that’s the trend we’re betting on even more than online grocery, it’s the rise of the conscious consumer.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Everyone just had time to sit back and read on the internet and watch some Netflix series and things like that. And I think that it actually gave people a chance to dive into things that maybe they just didn’t have a chance to do before all of this, where they could actually, like I did go into a thread about formula and watching Netflix series all about water and-

Nick:

Yeah, it’s like getting educated and then also having that time to reflect, right? And say, “How do I want to show up in this? And how can I vote with my dollars?” And I think it’s really, to me it’s very heartening that when people have that moment, they come out saying, “I want to make a difference. I want to be on the side of change.”

Stephanie:

Yeah. Yeah. I completely agree. I wanted to ask how you set up your backend infrastructure to keep your brands happy? How did you make it easy for them to, you to place orders from them or them to see sales, or how does it look behind the scenes? Because we focus a lot on the consumer piece. And that was the one part I was thinking was like, what are your backend systems look like for all your brands?

Nick:

And the approach that we took, which I think was pretty differentiated with our membership base was just to be hyper transparent on what was going on, what were the challenges we were having in our supply chain? Why was it taking longer to fulfill orders? And how were we scaling up our fulfillment capacity while still keeping our fulfillment workers safe and ensuring that the products arrived to our members safely? And so, that was a whole exercise for us and community building radical transparency. I got out there and did an Instagram TV. I’m not even an Instagram user, but managed to get up there and spend 15 minutes talking directly to our members about the different challenges that we were having and giving them a window in.

Nick:

And the same kind of communication was necessary, basically with each of our stakeholders. So, internally with our employees, it was a huge exercise. And how do you, during a time when everyone is work from home and isolated and scared, how do you keep people together? How do you create community? How do you be transparent with what you know, and also what you don’t know in terms of where things are headed?

Nick:

And then with our brands, the exact same thing. We have good systems for brands to self serve on what’s happening with their sales, with their performance of different skews. We also do a lot of just custom reporting, like I said, with every promotion that goes out. But the biggest benefit that we have, the biggest strength we have there is not so much the light bells and whistles on the backend reporting, as much as it is the fact that we have fewer brands, we can actually give them personal attention. And so, our category managers were basically on the phone all day during COVID and even pre-COVID they’re on the phone all day talking to our brands, finding out how we can be helping them, giving them feedback and giving them insight.

Nick:

And so, I think we have, because of the curated model had the opportunity to, despite getting some significant scale, maintain that closeness of interaction and that personalization, and just like we’re doing for our members, doing it with the brands. And I’ll tell you that was especially important during COVID, because you can have a great backend reporting infrastructure and self service platform, but brands are trying to figure out what the heck is going on, that’s not going to get you answers.

Stephanie:

They better be able to reach you.

Nick:

They better be able to reach you and they better reel up the conversation. And look, our brands had challenges too. They were struggling to scale their supply chains. We had major out of stock issues. We’re still dealing with that. Honestly, there’s been an elevated sustained demand. And the ability to have a relationship with each brand where they’re keeping us apprised to being transparent with what’s going on for them, and we’re doing the same to them, I mean, it just, it removes that friction and that barrier, that I think can often happen when you’ve got brands and retailers that don’t talk.

Stephanie:

Is there anything that you learned from all of this that you’re, or maybe best practices that you saw happen with one brand that you’re sharing with another to prevent out of stock issues or being able to help forecast demand better? Because I’m sure this won’t be the first time this happens. What kind of best practices are you maybe sharing amongst your brands, if at all?

Nick:

That’s a really good question. I think every brand has a unique situation right now. Each category is unique. There are some categories that have been affected 5% or 10% in either direction. And you’ve got others that have been affected 5000%. So, I don’t know that there’s universals. Probably, the only universal is that, if things are… There is no universal, essentially, right? That things are unpredictable, volatility can happen. And we have to build our business and they have to build their businesses in a way to be resilient and ideally be anti-fragile, is the term I like to use. It’s being able to actually lean into a really challenging moment and step up and be a better version oof what you normally do.

Nick:

And so, for us as a business that was on the mission dimension of like, “Hey, for us and being anti-fragile, is we already, we do a great job building a community. We do a great job with communication. We do a great job living by our values. Now, we’re going to do that. And we’re just going to triple down on it to make sure that is our source of strength during this trying time.”

Nick:

For our brands, the challenge that they have is, they’re dependent on their own supply chains. They have limited manufacturing capability. And, again, if you have a 5% or even 50% spike in demand that might be able to be handled. But if you’re a brand that creates hand sanitizer or can beans or flour or you do diced tomatoes, that have a year long lead time from the harvest, there just isn’t much you can do. So, we have tried to work hand in hand with our brands for sure. We tried to be patient with them for sure. And then it’s been a good exercise for us to think about redundancy in our supply chain and making sure that we have partners that can scale and are going to be resilient. We’re still obviously hitting our quality standards.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s a great answer. I’m pretty sure I could talk to you all day long, set a thousand questions, but I also want to respect your time. So, is there anything we missed before we jump into a quick lightning round?

Nick:

No, this is great. I feel like you asked a lot of good questions and gave me a chance to pontificate at length. So, thank you.

Stephanie:

I love pontification. Okay, great. So, the lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. It’s where I’m going to ask you one question and you have a minute or less to answer.

Nick:

Okay.

Stephanie:

Are you ready?

Nick:

I’m ready.

Stephanie:

All right. I thought of a hard question for you. If you were to create a Netflix Original, what would it be about?

Nick:

It would be about regenerative agriculture.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Tell me more.

Nick:

That is to me, that is the future of food. And it is the way that food can be part of the solution on climate change. And just so that for your listenership to understand, organic farming procreates a less of a carbon footprint than traditional farming, but it’s not necessarily actually regenerating and sequestering carbon and having a net negative impact. And bringing up for those people that don’t know, basically carbon emissions is what creates global warming or the primary thing that creates global warming. Regenerative agriculture is agricultural systems and models that actually sequester carbon, regenerate top soil, and in doing so have a positive impact. And there are negative, depending on how you want to talk about it, impact on climate change.

Nick:

And I think we are past the point, at this point where we just need to slow it down. We actually need to reverse it. And food as you know, is a massive, massive culprit, our food system. And I think people don’t realize how innovative, how scalable and how impactful regenerative ag could be if we were willing to accelerate it. And there’s so much cool stuff happening. I think if we could do a Netflix series that shows more and more conscious viewers in this case, be conscious consumers. What’s possible, you’d have a groundswell of interest and support for regenerative ag.

Stephanie:

Oh, that’s good. If anyone from Netflix is out there, hit up, Nick. Sounds like a [crosstalk 01:01:24].

Nick:

That’s my pitch. That’s my pitch.

Stephanie:

Yeah. There you go. What kind of music do you listen to, to get in the zone?

Nick:

Oh gosh. I’m actually an ear plugs and noise canceling headphones kind of guy when I’m working, utter, utter silence. And I like to walk a lot. My form of meditation is going out for a walk. I know I sound like I’m like 80 years old.

Stephanie:

Me too.

Nick:

It’s for me, it’s like super, super therapeutic. And then I will listen to music. And it depends so much on my mood. It can be everything from house electronic, if I wanted to really let off steam and move fast, to classical, to sometimes I just go silent too. So, I’m classic ADD where, if there’s any distraction around, it’s kryptonite to my work. So, I’ve got a big thing of earplugs sitting right next to me right now. And I go through about 10 pairs of disposable earplugs every day.

Stephanie:

That’s great. What health fact do you drop on people that surprises them?

Nick:

That’s where I could have spent the whole hour talking about. I think there are some… This isn’t an answer to the question, but there are so many health facts that surprised people because so much of what we historically thought of as healthy has been total misinformation. And I think more and more people now understand that fat’s not bad. Fat doesn’t make you fat. That’s an obvious one. But I think the one that I’m actually most interested right now, is the fact that what is healthy for humans is really also tends to be what’s healthy for the planet and vice versa.

Nick:

And I’ve mentioned this earlier, but I think people are connecting that more and more, that if you look at products and food products, especially that are produced sustainably, those products will tend to be simple. They will tend to have low numbers of ingredients. They will tend not to have chemicals. And those same things tend to make them healthy for our people.

Nick:

And there’s a lot of different debate and diets about, “What’s the right macros. Should you be keto? Should you be vegan?” But if you generally just stick with, if this product was produced in a way that was healthy for our planet, you will probably get to a place that is also healthy for you as a human.

Stephanie:

I like that motto. It makes it a lot easier. What tool or technology are you most excited about either trying out or that you’re currently trying out right now and it can be at Thrive or it can be personally?

Nick:

That’s a good one, tool or technology. Honestly, I’m a minimalist, so I’m actually always trying to reduce, clear out and take away technology. I don’t use any social media. I had a brief flirtatious relationship with Twitter early in the pandemic and got sucked in, literally I’ve never used. I don’t use Twitter. I don’t use Facebook. I don’t use Instagram. And-

Stephanie:

I’m going to tag you, Nick. Oh, it makes me so sad.

Nick:

I know, but the truth is, I would be a total addict on all those platforms, I’m now convinced. So, I actually, I try to reduce tools and technology to the maximum. I think, if you’re trying to do something, what matters in your life and your ability to achieve those things will basically be a function of how much of the things that don’t matter, you can eliminate.

Stephanie:

I like that. That’s a great answer. All right. The last hard one, what one thing will have the biggest impact on Ecommerce in the next year?

Nick:

Oh, I mean, I think that’s obvious, it’s what’s happening with the pandemic and COVID. And as I said, I think there’s like, it’s the thing that people miss is that this is not a departure. It’s not some orthogonal trend. It really is the acceleration of all these mega secular trends that were already happening. And I think what’s fascinating about it is you are concentrating already rapid trends, like the shift of grocery online, or the shift to conscious consumer attitudes. And you’re concentrating years of evolution into a few months. And I think the ramifications of that, what the new normal looks like, what the different vectors are beyond just online grocery and conscious consumers, I think it’s going to weigh out last the virus itself. And in particular with Ecommerce, we’re getting to see the future now. We are going to see 2030 in 2021.

Stephanie:

That’s great. That’s a good quote too. Well, Nick, thank you so much for joining the show. It’s been such a fun conversation, so many good insights. Where can people find out more, not about you apparently on social media, where can people find out more about Thrive Market?

Nick:

Yeah, you can find more about me anywhere, but Thrive Market is thrivemarket.com. Again, first month is risk-free, if you want to sign up for a membership. If you’re in financial straits or you’re a teacher, a veteran, a student, a low income family, you can actually get a free membership, just apply through our gifts program. If you have anyone else that’s affected by COVID directly, they can also get free membership and a grocery stipend. And yeah, check us out, we’re also, obviously, on all the social media platforms.

Stephanie:

Cool. Thanks so much, Nick.

 

 

 

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